Eva Ekvall, a former Miss Venezuela who embarked on a crusade on breast cancer awareness after being diagnosed with the illness at 28, has died.

Her sudden death sparked an outpouring of emotions in Venezuela, where many have followed her struggle with cancer. She died Saturday at a hospital in Houston.

Ekvall was crowned Miss Venezuela at age 17 in 2000, and the following year she was third runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant in Puerto Rico. She went on to work as a model, actress and television news anchor

Her book, "Fuera de Foco" ("Out of Focus"), chronicled her struggle with cancer and included images of her journey by photographer Roberto Mata. The intimate photos – her face ashen and puffy, her head bald and body frail – was jarring in Venezuela because the country places such a premium on beauty.

Watch Ekvall during an interview with Fox News Latino

“Now that I see it, now that I’m better, I do look at the photos and think they are shocking,” Ekvall told Fox News Latino during an interview earlier this year. “But back then, that’s what I was seeing in the mirror every day. It was what was going on in my life, and I didn’t have much of a reaction then. It was what I was seeing every day.”

Ekvall's family said in a statement Sunday that her remains were being cremated in Houston on Monday and that a service is to be held in Venezuela once her remains are returned to the country.

She was married to radio producer John Fabio Bermudez and had a 2-year-old daughter.  Prominent artists and politicians were among the many people expressing their condolences.

Ekvall's husband posted a photo on Twitter Sunday showing a close-up of his hand holding hers, resting on a hospital bed, with the words "Always together ... I love you wife."

During an interview with Fox News Latino, Ekvall talked about battling breast cancer while being a new mom – she found out she had cancer right after she gave birth to her daughter – and how she penned a book so she could feel better about herself.

She said the book “taught me to do things I never thought I would do. I never thought I would write a book. It taught me you have to work hard for things you want.”

As for the cancer, she said: “Thanks, cancer, for reminding me who I am and what I can do."

For more on the interview, click here.

This story contains material from The Associated Press. 

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